A review of Marvel’s Black Panther

I’ve written numerous movie reviews on my blog. In the current review, I’m once again teaming up with my brother Amahl to discuss Marvel’s Black Panther. According to Yahoo, the film has already made an estimated $192 million over three days, putting it on track to surpass its $200 million production cost, and smash other box office records. Black Panther is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) latest offering leading us up to the Avengers: Infinity War Part One over the summer which will bring most of its characters back to the big screen, and will heavily involve the Black Panther himself and his home of Wakanda as seen in the theatrical trailer. In Marvel’s Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman returns to play the now King T’Challa/Black Panther along with an all-star cast including: Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Forrest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, and many others. The following are our thoughts on the movie.

Amahl Dunbar: I think Black Panther could’ve alternatively been called ‘Wakanda: Episode 1’, because the script seemed to describe the hero’s home country versus solely describing his individual journey as is the case in most comic book movies. In the Marvel Universe, the beautiful African country of Wakanda is a highly technologically, and politically sophisticated nation. The oligarchy, government, and military work in unison to resolve major issues and maintain cultural harmony though one principle; Wakanda must not be influenced by outside forces in the form of colonists and immigrants.

The way it was written, Black Panther is subtle in its social commentary, never talking down to the audience. Most social and political messages are done with a laugh or a wry smile. As a matter of fact, none of the elements in the movie were overdone. Recently in the genres of ‘Science Fiction’ and ‘Action’ movies, the final battles between the heroes, the boss villain, and the other villains, involves turning up the speaker volume in theaters, coupled with quick fight scene editing to extend scenes, making the audience believe they’re seeing more than what they’re actually seeing. Not in Black Panther. All of the action scenes down to each shot are purposeful and meaningful because screen time is precious to audiences who can easily get bored.

Again I think the strength of Black Panther was that Ryan Coogler’s production team took the approach of building a world around its hero versus focusing solely on the hero’s journey. I look forward to the Avengers: Infinity War Part One, plus Black Panther 2 and 3. Marvel’s next challenge will be finding a foe formidable enough for King T’Challa of Wakanda.

Anwar Dunbar: First I would like to acknowledge the Donna M. Saunders Foundation for Breast Cancer Education and Support for hosting a private screening of Black Panther at the AMC Hoffman 22 in Alexandria, Va. It was an amazing event. The foundation does a lot of great work in terms of helping breast cancer patients and their families. The foundation gave attendees numerous collectibles and surprises before the movie started including: Black Panther posters, comic books, and work books. Prior to the start of the movie the foundation also gave us an additional surprise – an introduction by author Jesse J. Holland who authored Who Is The Black Panther?, a novel about the Black Panther’s history. Mr. Holland signed copies of his book after the viewing of the movie.

Leading up to the its release, Black Panther was unique from the other films produced by the MCU in that it appealed to two different audiences. Featuring a mostly black cast and production crew, it created a buzz and drew viewers other than the usual Super Hero/Science Fiction ‘junkies’ like my brother and myself. One could argue that movie for Black America was actually a cultural event as much as it was a movie debut – a source of controversy leading up to its release. The excitement leading up to film was unlike anything I’d ever seen before and was the result of brilliant marketing by Disney and Marvel, who strategically scheduled Black Panther’s release during Black History Month.

In terms of my review of the movie, I have to admit that growing up reading mostly DC Comics, I didn’t know that there was a Black Panther character in the Marvel Universe. Five years ago, a friend mentioned that Black Panther was going to get his own movie which was my first time hearing about the character. My first time actually seeing the character in action was in Captain America: Civil War almost two years ago. Coincidentally, consistent with the MCU’s seamless storytelling, Black Panther picks up where we left off in Civil War where T’Challa was trying to avenge the death of his father T’Chaka whose decisions as a younger king to protect Wakanda, drive the plot and story throughout the current movie.

The movie was amazing in terms its acting, action and visuals, but what stood out to me most were the messages in it. As I stated on Twitter shortly after seeing it, it wasn’t the typical light-hearted action adventure, with a teachable moment like the MCU’s other movies. It had definite political and social commentaries/messages built into its script which actually had me pondering things like: economics, foreign policy, and immigration as I was watching the film. In addition to having a mostly black cast, there was a strong female presence in terms of Wakanda’s military and scientific innovations. Shuri played by Letitia Wright turned out to be my favorite character.

Similar to some of the other reviews I’ve heard and read, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther didn’t feel as though it was completely about T’Challa/Black Panther. Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger also commanded the screen in a very significant way, and actually won the sympathies of many in the audience. I look forward sequels to Black Panther and also seeing how Wakanda factors into the Avengers: Infinity War. Based upon the trailer, there is going to be a huge battle involving Black Panther and his home of Wakanda. I’ll give Black Panther an –A, on the basis that it didn’t dovetail back into the MCU’s overall story arc in the same ways the other movies did – perhaps due to the fact that Wakanda is an isolationist society in terms of story. That said I will see it multiple times, and purchase a copy when it’s released on Blue Ray and DVD.

Thank you for taking the time to read this review. If you enjoyed this review, you might also enjoy:

A review of All Eyez on Me
A review of Hidden Figures
A review of Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok
A review of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming
A review of Marvel’s Dr. Strange

Our Twitter handles are @amahldunbar and @BWArePowerful. If you liked this review, please do click the “like” button, leave comments, and share it. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site. Lastly follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

A review of DC’s Justice League

While my blog has distinct areas of focus and associated principles, I like to leave room for movie reviews. As stated in my bio, I have a love for Science Fiction and Super Hero movies going back to my childhood. In this review, I’m going to give my thoughts on the DC Extended Universe’s (DEU) Justice League movie starring Ben Affleck, Gail Gadot, Henry Camvill, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, and Ezra Miller.

I saw Justice League the weekend it opened, and with the release of the Avengers: Infinity War trailer, I want to give a quick recap before we all get swept back up into the excitement of Marvel’s upcoming offerings. After watching a couple of fan reviews of the Justice League movie over on YouTube, I’ve identified some common themes similar to those I thought of after seeing the movie myself. I’ll start with time. Before going to see the Justice League movie, I actually looked at the movie’s run time.  After seeing that it was only two hours, I immediately thought that it would be a short amount of time for this type of film where DC would be bringing together some of its signature heroes for the first time. As I told my brother Amahl afterwards, I suspect the Blue Ray will be filled with extras – extended and deleted scenes.

Something about the movie felt rushed and disjointed similar to Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the Justice League because I did, but the production team had to cover a lot a of ground in a relatively short period time in terms of integrating Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash into the story all while also having to introduce the villain Steppenwolf. A key component to Super Hero, Fantasy and Science Fiction films are the villains who can literally make or break the stories. While Steppenwolf was physically imposing and brutally took out quite a few Amazons, there was something missing though I enjoyed the telling of his backstory which reminded me of something out of The Lord of the Rings. It let us know that we might in fact see some of the Green Lanterns in upcoming films.

I thought the members of the Justice League fit together pretty well once assembled – the chemistry of the group worked, and there were lots of laughs. The Flash delivered in terms of comedy and portraying a child-like innocence. Aquaman was a bit mysterious, as was Cyborg and their characters could’ve used a little more development. Growing up reading DC Comics more than Marvel, I was wondering how they would make a Justice League movie without Superman, and even if Krypton’s sole survivor would make an appearance in the film. I mean Superman is the leader of the Justice League. How could you have a movie without him? DEU’s answer to my question was unique and based upon my answer you’ve probably surmised that Superman does in fact return in the film completing this initial version of the team. Batman and Wonder Woman served as leaders of the Justice League until Superman returned and even had one of those stand off-like disagreements we usually see between the top members of Super Hero teams.

Similar to one of the reviews I watched on YouTube, I’ll give the Justice League a B-. In the next movie I want the villain and his or her plan to actually scare me, and make me wonder if the heroes will actually be able to save the world from some imminent destruction similar to the General Zod’s plan to turn the planet Earth into the new Krypton in the Man of Steel. This story teased us with that, but I want to feel it the next time. Based upon the clues left in the ending credits, the DEU may be setting us up for such a thing, and hopefully they’ll hit it out of the park the next time.

Thank you for taking the time to read this review. The next review on my blog will most likely be of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. If you enjoyed this one, you may also enjoy:

A review of Thor: Ragnarok
A review of Bladerunner 2049
A review of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming
A review of All Eyez on Me
A review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
A review of Hidden Figures
A review of Marvel’s Dr. Strange

My Twitter handle is @BWArePowerful and you can also follow me at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page. If you enjoyed this review, please do click the like button, leave comments, and share it. Thank you and we’re signing off. If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

A review of Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok

While my blog has distinct areas of focus and associated principles, I like to leave room for movie reviews. As stated in my bio, I have a love for Science Fiction and Super Hero movies going back to childhood. While I normally team up with my brother Amahl as we recently did for Blade Runner 2049, I’m going to tackle Thor: Ragnarok on my own. This review will thus focus on the third installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU’s) Thor series starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Kate Blanchett, Idris Elba, and Anthony Hopkins. Karl Urban also stars in it and Benedict Cumberbatch makes a cameo as well. As you might guess, Stan Lee also makes his usual appearance.

If there is one word I can use to describe Thor: Ragnarok, it would be humor. I have to admit that I only saw parts of Thor: The Dark World, and while it did stay true to its title in terms of darkness, Thor: Ragnarok goes completely in the other direction in terms of laughs – a hallmark of the MCU’s productions particularly when Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man is involved. In both Avengers movies Tony Stark and Bruce Banner form a comedic duo, and thus Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/The Hulk lends several laughs to Thor: Ragnarok, in addition to the main character himself. Speaking of the Hulk, I really enjoy backstories and answers to previously unanswered questions. Thor: Ragnarok gives us an idea of what happened to Bruce Banner/The Hulk when he fled from Sokovia towards the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron hoping to disappear back into anonymity.

As per usual, the Thor movies are otherworldly and more fantasy-like. Thor: Ragnarok gives Thor and the Hulk their own movie who were the two Avengers coincidentally mentioned but absent in Captain America: Civil War. This version of the Hulk is more in control and self-aware readily having discussions with Thor, and it’s even speculated that he now knows how to maintain his form over his Bruce Banner half. Without spoiling the film, the movie starts with Thor defeating Surtur who vows to unleash something called “Ragnarok” on Asgard. After defeating Surtur and foiling another one of Loki’s schemes, Thor and Loki are led to their father Odin coincidentally by Dr. Strange before both of them are initially defeated by Hela and displaced through space time to the world of the “Grandmaster” who is portrayed by Jeff Goldblum. Hela is too powerful for either Thor or his brother Loki. I’ve long been a fan of Kate Blanchett’s since the Lord of the Rings series and she wears her dark colors and fitted leather outfits quite well in this film.

“YEEEESSS. We know each other. He’s a friend from work,” Thor happily says in the trailer themed by Ledd Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song” (now in my head).  Thor and the Hulk humorously re-unite on the planet of the Grandmaster who collects fighters and makes them battle to the death for sport. Thor who has “lost” his hammer “Mjölnir”, ultimately teams up with Bruce Banner/Hulk, and Valkyrie portrayed by Tessa Thompson and returns to Asgard to attempt to take it back from Hela with the aid of Heimdall who has prevented her from using the “Bifrost” to take over the other realms.

What is the significance of the name “Ragnarok”? Well let’s just say that it impacts the end of the story and pretty much changes Thor’s story world going forward. Thor ends this movie a changed god. While there is humor throughout it, the protagonist is forever altered both mentally and in terms of his physical being. Thor: Ragnorak is a very entertaining film which has been said by many to be the best of the series which has also been said to be the weakest franchise in the MCU. Next up from the MCU is The Black Panther which is gaining more and more steam in terms of excitement and anticipation. Ultimately though I’m looking forward to the Avengers: Infinity War when all of the heroes will be back on the screen together fighting their most formidable foe yet.

Thank you for taking the time to read this review. The next review on my blog will most likely be the Justice League. If you enjoyed this one, you may also enjoy:

A review of Bladerunner 2049
A review of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming
A review of All Eyez on Me
A review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
A review of Hidden Figures
A review of Marvel’s Dr. Strange

My Twitter handle is @BWArePowerful and you can also follow me at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page. If you enjoyed this review, please do click the like button, leave comments, and share it. Thank you and we’re signing off. If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

A review of Blade Runner 2049

While my blog has distinct areas of focus and associated principles, I like to leave room for movie reviews. Both myself and my brother Amahl love movies, particularly the science fiction and super hero genres. We’ve teamed up on quite a few reviews thus far (see the end of this post). My blog’s last movie review was of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, and prior to that, I wrote a review of the Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me. The 1980s was a magical time for movie making, and in this review we’re returning to our childhoods with a review of Denis Villenueve’s Blade Runner 2049 starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, and Jared Leto. Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel to Ridley Scott’s original 1982 Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford, Edward James Olmos, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah, and Rutger Hauer.

Amahl: Coming into the sequel I had some questions about how a story that takes place in 2049 would work with our current technologies like GPS, social media, and drones in a post Obama/ Trump America. The sequel answered all of my questions, except for that regarding social media. There was no speculation of how social media would exist in 2049. That was fine, because there was so much more to this film to enjoy.

In the real world, if entities such as the Tyrell or Wallace Corporations created robots that looked and sounded human with the sole purpose of serving humanity, they’d create a minority class. I think that’s one of the underlying themes of both of the Blade Runner movies. There are a couple of scenes in Blade Runner 2049 where Ryan Gosling’s character, Officer K, a “replicant”, is bullied by human officers, verbally assaulted by his human neighbors, and propositioned by a human female co-worker. If real world corporations such as Apple, Google, or Tesla had the chance to create replicants, I think the results would be disastrous. A proper way to integrate robots with humans would be in ways similar to what was seen in the movies Chappie or Robot & Frank. In both films, the robots have sentient-style bodies, but have no use for hair, skin, or blood. By the way, I think Chappie could serve as a proper prequel to the original Blade Runner.

My ‘take away’ story moment from Blade Runner 2049 was when the replicant ‘Luv’, from the Wallace Corporation, entered a police station, removed ‘retirement’ evidence, and then killed a forensic scientist and then the police chief. It was a strange, but subtle moment in the script where I figured law enforcement would pursue Wallace Corporation. The crimes by Luv were never addressed, so I concluded in the Blade Runner future of 2049, corporations had outgrown the government or constitutional laws.

Anwar: First of all, I was fortunate to be able to see Blade Runner 2049 in 3-D for the general admission price due to a miscommunication at the ticket booth, so thank you Regal Cinemas. Secondly, I was disappointed that they didn’t run the latest Justice League trailer before Blade Runner 2049 started, though it interestingly appears that we’re getting a second installment of Pacific Rim. Gerard Butler’s new movie, Geostorm, looked visually interesting to me as well.

In terms of Blade Runner 2049, I didn’t really go in with any hard expectations. I was thankful, as I’m sure other fans were, that it wasn’t an attempt at a remake of the original as we saw with Robocop and Total Recall, which neither lived up to the originals. Seeing Harrison Ford in the trailer let us all know that this would be a continuation of the original story, though much later chronologically.

Without spoiling Blade Runner 2049 for any readers, I enjoyed the film. With total runtime of 2 hours and 43 minutes, I had to really pay attention to all of the plot details as I often get lost and have to see movies twice to take in everything, while my brother, Amahl, can usually catch it all on the first viewing. Blade Runner 2049 kept a great deal of the “Cyberpunk” visual themes that Ridley Scott created in his 1982 classic – the most notable carry overs being the hover cars, the dark and stormy ambiance, in some cases the sexual eroticism expressed through holograms and some actual scenes.

Musically, Blade Runner 2049 also reprised the distinct sounds of Vangelis from the 1982 original. The plot went in a completely different direction than the original and I must admit that I was thrown off a little bit at the end. Ryan Gosling played well as the lead in Blade Runner 2049, though his “replicant” was more robotic than those in the original film who were more human. At times his Officer K, who is shrouded in mystery from the beginning of the film, very much reminded me of Michael Fassbender’s David from Prometheus. While in the first Blade Runner, there weren’t distinct villains – only the replicants who are trying to escape and extend their lives, there seem to be distinct villains in this sequel. While she was evil, I must admit that I did enjoy “Luv” played by Sylvia Hoeks. Harrison Ford’s Deckard returns to play a key role and it’s once again unclear or unaddressed if he is a replicant himself, though the plot suggests he must be. It was also unclear if there will be a third installment, though the door is left wide open for another film.

Thank you for taking the time to read our review. If you enjoyed this one, you may also enjoy:

Our next review will likely be of the Justice League movie opening in November.

Twitter handles are @amahldunbar and @BWArePowerful, and you can also follow me at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page. If you liked this review, please do click the like button, leave comments, and share it. Thank you and we’re signing off. If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.


A review of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming

I recently wrote a review of the Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me.  Prior to that, shortly after starting my blog, I co-wrote movie reviews with my brother Amahl Dunbar for Marvel’s Dr. Strange and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – both of the Super Hero and Science Fiction genres.  We followed those two films up with a review of Hidden Figures which had a more historical focus.  In this review we’re returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with a review of their latest offering, Spider-Man: Homecoming starring Tom Holland (Spider-Man/Peter Parker), Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man/Tony Stark), and Michael Keaton (The Vulture).

Amahl Dunbar:  This latest version of Spider-Man was designed to fit neatly into the MCU.  For that reason I feel the script was too safe.  It had a couple of twists I didn’t expect, but I felt the biggest surprises were the explanations of his powers for this version of the character which differed from the previous versions.  As an inventor myself, I really enjoyed the winged flight suit worn by Spidey’s villain, the Vulture, portrayed by Michael Keaton.  Whenever the Vulture suit was on screen, I was almost taking notes in my head regarding designs and how something like that might work in the real world.

Anwar Dunbar:  I think Spider-Man: Homecoming was well worth the wait and anticipation.  I won’t give an overview of the whole movie so as not to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.  Instead I’ll just touch upon what stood out to me.  Spider-Man: Homecoming tells the story of the Tom Holland’s Spider-Man who has had two previous incarnations (Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield).  As Amahl stated, the story was now intentionally told as a part of the MCU.

I think Tom Holland played very well as Spider-Man/Peter Parker albeit slightly younger than Maguire’s and Garfield’s renditions.  What stood out to me though was how the writers modified the story in comparison to the previous versions where a key thread was the murder of Peter’s Uncle Ben, and his subsequent tending to his elderly Aunt Mae.  In this version, Aunt Mae (Marissa Tomei) is much younger, and there is no mention of Uncle Ben up to this point.  There were other slight changes to some of the other characters – specifically a more ethnically diverse cast.

In Uncle Ben’s absence, Peter Parker’s mentor has become Tony Stark/Iron Man which we first saw in Captain America: Civil War.  It creates a much different dynamic but it causes Spider-Man to contemplate joining the Avengers – a major underlying thread of the story.  Speaking of the Avengers, the writers and director did a masterful job weaving the Spider-Man: Homecoming story into the events of Captain America: Civil War and remind us that Peter’s journey is not happening in isolation.  The same is true for Michael Keaton’s character the Vulture.  His story is also not happening in isolation and instead is a part of the Avengers story arc.

The ending surprised me in numerous ways but mostly in terms of the characters.  As Amahl discussed about the Vulture’s suit, I thought the technology was very impressive, particularly the Stark Industries version of the Spider-Man suit and all it could do.  I really enjoy how the Marvel writers weave science into their stories in general.  Overall I thought the movie was a lot fun and kept the trademark humor and whit of the Spider-Man franchise.  Spider-Man: Homecoming does a good job keeping our MCU stomachs full while we wait for Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War.

Thank you for taking the time to read our review.  Our Twitter handles are @amahldunbar and @BWArePowerful.  If you liked this review, please do click the “like” button, leave comments, and share it.  If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment.  To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site.  Lastly in addition to Twitter, follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page.  While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

A review of All Eyez on Me

I was originally going to write my next movie review on Spider-Man: Homecoming, but All Eyez on Me came out of nowhere.  I first saw the trailer a couple of weeks ago, when going to see Alien: Covenant.  I saw the movie shortly after it was released, and subsequently felt compelled to write something about it.  

All Eyez on Me starred Demetrius Shipp Jr. who played the late and legendary Hip Hop recording artist/actor Tupac Shakur.  I immediately thought Shipp was a spitting image of Shakur when I first saw the trailer, and he didn’t disappoint in the film.  Shipp masterfully captured Tupac not only in terms of looks, but also in terms of verbal and non-verbal communication, and even in the way Shakur bobbed around dancing in his music videos, and in the recording studios. 

Similar to Straight Outta Compton, the movie tracked Shakur’s early life – going back to his pre-teen years starting with his mother’s membership in the Black Panther Party.  It further showed his family’s move to Baltimore, and then his initial move to the west coast.  It touched upon his friendship with Jada Pinkett-Smith – a source of controversy as Pinkett-Smith subsequently released a statement saying that the movie wasn’t entirely factual content-wise. 

All Eyez on Me further chronicled Tupac’s ascension to stardom first in music and then on the movie screen in addition to the problems that riddled his life and career.  Similar to many Hip Hop artists, his career was mired by money issues in addition to violence which ultimately ended his life in 1996 while signed with Suge Knight’s Death Row Records.  Similar to most artistic geniuses, he was taken from the world early just as he was on the cusp of going to his next creative level and expanding into other areas; record label ownership and screenwriting projects similar to Ice Cube.

While my favorite all time Hip Hop group is Gang-Starr, my interest in Tupac changed over the years.  I was very much a fan of Digital Underground as a young teen and didn’t know he was actually a part of that group until he released “Brenda’s Got a Baby” – a more socially conscious track than most of what the Underground had produced.  I took a liking to his track “If My Homie Calls”, and even bought a copy of his record “Strictly 4 My NIGGAZ”.  I followed him from a distance as he blew up in movies, and then started to hear about his run ins with the police, the rape charge which put him in jail, and finally when he got swept up into the center of the East Coast-West Coast Feud which arguably took down both him and the Notorious BIG

Simply put, Tupac was genius.  His music embodied the anti-police and black power themes of the Black Panther Party while at the same time telling the stories of young black men in the inner cities.  He released conflicting tracks like: “I Get Around”, “Keep Ya Head Up”, and then “Dear Momma” – a source of jokes at the time.  The track that really grabbed me though was the solemn and dark, “So Many Tears” which he released when he was in jail and reflecting on his life.  He used a double in the video who wore his signature bandana and loose fitting clothing.  My favorite track he created once he joined Death Row Records was “Gangsta Party” where he teamed up with Snoop Dogg.

In the mid-1990s as an undergraduate, I interestingly took a liking to Smooth Jazz.  As a whole I pulled back from the Hip Hop scene.  A bit of a bookworm at the time, I didn’t particularly understand Tupac’s glorification of the “THUG” lifestyle and what it represented though I still respected his articstic brilliance and felt the pain and loss of his death – still unsolved to this day similar to that of the Notorious BIG who was also murdered shortly afterwards.

I would recommend seeing All Eyez on Me.  The movie embodied a couple of the principles of my blog; empowering others and teaching others how to succeed – sometimes by teaching what not to do.  The movie showed the complexity of Tupac’s life, and similar to Straight Outta Compton, it showed the importance of choices, and being in control of one’s financial destiny – something many recording artists of that era grappled with.  Also similar to Straight Outta Compton, if you listened to Hip Hop music in the early 1990s, you’ll find yourself singing along, nodding you’re head, and bouncing your arms up and down in the theater.  You’ll also recognize signature scenes from movies like Juice, and Above the Rim which Tupac starred in.  Hill Harper plays a prominent role in the film, interviewing Tupac from jail.  Interestingly, the actor who played Notorious BIG (Jamal Woolard) in the movie Notorious, reprised his role in this film, though all new actors were used for the prominent members of Death Row Records.  There was also a cameo by NFL wide receiver Desean Jackson.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment.  To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site.  Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page.  While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.


A review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

My brother Amahl Dunbar of the Swamp Media Group (producers of The Space Detective), and I recently wrote our first movie review for Marvel’s Dr. Strange.  As promised at the end of that piece, we’re back to review the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story directed by Gareth Edwards.  The following is our discussion and analysis of Rogue One.  Please be advised that if you haven’t seen the movie yet, this may spoil it for you.

Anwar:  First off bro welcome back for our second review, this time of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  We were children when Episodes IV-VI were produced and thus go way back with the Star Wars franchise.  I’m going to further date us and say that in addition to seeing the original movies, we also played with some of the original toys made by Kenner – the action figures, ships, and vehicles.  That was a great time to be a child.  We were also young enough and of sound mind when the prequels were produced – Episodes I-III, and recently the continuation of the series with Episode VII: The Force Awakens.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is interesting conceptually in that it isn’t officially one of the “Episodes”, but instead is in itself a prequel which chronologically takes place between Episodes III and IV.  Do you have any opening comments or thoughts?

Amahl: Yes.  The tone of Rogue One was set early in the film when the Mother of the key character was killed off as you’ll describe.   That let the audience know that this was going to be a serious story in the Star Wars universe.

Anwar:  Okay so in terms of what Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is about, it takes place after Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, where we got a glimpse of the early stages of the Death Star being constructed.  By the way in terms of storytelling, at least in the movies, the Star Wars films never really mark time, like Star Trek does.  We only know that the story is taking place, “Long ago in a galaxy far, far away,” the hallmark intro of the films which was omitted from this one in addition to the crawling introductory passage.

Going back to the story, at the end of Episode III, we got glimpses of Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin looking on as the Death Star was being built.  Rogue One starts with Imperial Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendhelsohn) traveling to the planet Lah’Mu to re-enlist the help of engineer Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) to help finish construction of the Death Star.  Erso who hoped to disappear into a life of agriculture and his wife Lyra (Valene Kane) who is murdered during the confrontation, have a daughter named Jyn who escapes, and is found by their ally Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).

Fifteen years later, Jyn (Felicity Jones) grows up and is a prisoner of the Empire.  She is rescued by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) of the Rebellion and his reprogrammed Imperial Droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) and is asked to help find Saw Gerrera who himself is sought out by an Imperial pilot named Bohdi Rook (Riz Ahmed).  Rook was actually sent by Galen Erso to reveal that the Death Star was built with a built in vulnerability.  Under orders from the Rebellion, Jyn and Cassian travel to the once Jedi- home world of Jedda where the Empire is extracting Kybar Crystals which were used to power the Jedi’s lightsabers but are now also going to be used as the power source for the new Death Star.  There on Jedda, Jyn finds Saw Gerrera, and learns her father’s secret about the Death Star setting the stage for the remainder of the story which involves some familiar faces and some hallmarks of the Star Wars franchise.

So that’s the basic premise of the film without completely giving away the second half of it which I’m sure Lucas Film will appreciate.  Darth Vader does appear, and in terms of the significance of the name “Rogue One”, you’ll have to see the movie, but it is cleverly woven into the script and story.

Okay bro.  With all of that being said, do you have any thoughts on the movie?  What stood out to you about?  The story?  The dialogue?  The imagery?  The visual effects?  One of the things that stood out to me was the diversity of the cast ethnically, and in terms of the protagonist being female in addition to many of the Rebel leaders and even pilots and soldiers.

Amahl:  What stood out to me was how much Rogue One reminded me of playing the Star Wars video games whether they be of the action or adventure genre – avid gamers understand the difference between the two.  Whenever the main characters (and the audience) went to a different planet for example, there was either a person of interest to contact, or a location to be sabotaged, robbed or disabled.  Also, the martial arts action star, Donny Yen (IP Man trilogy), plays a blind Jedi with no light saber.  If anyone in a Star Wars movie should’ve wielded a light saber, it should’ve been Donny.  That’s like putting Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, in a Star Wars movie without a light saber.

Anwar:  Interesting.  In terms of your reference to video games, Rogue One did remind me of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic which completely sucked me into its world back in 2004 when I was in graduate school.  Hours would blow by when playing that game.  Early in the game, your party escapes from the planet Taris just before Darth Malak’s Leviathan ship destroys it, and in Rogue One, Jyn’s party escapes from Jeddha after the Death Star unleashes its initial deadly blast.

I had to see Rogue One twice to take in all of the minute details and remember all of the names.  It was similar to some of the other movies in that it started off with a character from humble beginnings who ends up being the main protagonist.  It had more of a dark, gritty, and tough feel about it as Jyn starts off as an adult as a prisoner of the Empire.  Cassian is a spy whose main job is gathering intelligence at any cost, and in some instances assassinating targets.  In this regard it really felt like what’s happening in our world now.  I was surprised that Saw Gerrera didn’t last longer in the story.  Speaking of which, I liked how they showed him inhaling that drug through his gas mask showing that the years of opposing the Empire had taken a toll on his soul and spirit causing him to have to self-medicate.

Amahl: Absolutely, Forrest Whitaker’s character Saw Gerrera was very interesting.  They could’ve done a flashback scene showing why he needed full prosthetic legs or the abdomen prosthetic.  That was a nod to the prosthetics Darth Vader needs to stay alive.   In the Star Wars universe, if you need prosthetics the audience is usually shown why the prosthetics are necessary.  Also, all prosthetics are not created equal.  Darth Vader’s robotic limbs look high end and state of the art.  Saw Gerrera’s robot limbs looked like they were bolted on from the Sanford & Son junk yard.

Anwar: That’s a good point.  When the scene opened up showing him years later and focusing on his legs, I thought we were about to see something like General Grievous.

Consistent with Episode III, there wasn’t a strong Jedi presence in this movie as most of them were killed off except for Master Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi who is alluded to by Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) during the film.  It was also interesting that the movie took us to Mustafar and we got to see how Darth Vader’s organics are sustained.  It was kind of eerie to see.

Did you have any favorite characters?  I think my favorite characters were K-2SO and Director Krennic.

Amahl:  The cameos were great for those who caught them.  There were many including Bail Organa as you mentioned.  I didn’t have any favorite characters, but I also enjoyed the droid character, K-2SO.  This droid was wonderfully unpredictable and stole every scene he was in. You never knew what he was going to do or say.

Anwar:  What are your thoughts on the visual effects?  I was impressed by how they CGI’d Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing and Guy Henry), Princess Leia (Carrie Fischer and Ingvild Deila), and some of the other characters.  In the final battle of Scarif, I think they also CGI’d the Red- and Gold-Leaders who were actually in Episode IV: A New Hope during the Rebel assault on the Death Star.   I also thought it was cool that they showed us the two thugs that confront Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi at the Mos Eisley Space Port in Episode IV as well – Dr. Cornelius Evazan and Ponda Baba.

Amahl:  The overall visual effects of this installment were focused on size and scale.  The director and production artists showed just how large buildings or massive explosions look at the ground level, or points of view from ships and satellites.  The explosions seen from the Death Star’s point of view let the audience know just how destructive and unnecessary weapons of mass destruction truly are.

Anwar:  In terms of storytelling, I really like seeing conflicts between villains and enjoyed the rivalry between Krennic and Tarkin.  The writers also showed us that Darth Vader never seemed to fully buy into the power of the Death Star – something we are shown in Episode IV where he warns Tarkin and the others that, “The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the force,” just before he uses his force choke again as Admiral Motti who belittles Vader for his belief in his “Ancient religion”.  I love that scene.  Oh and Vader uses the choke again in this movie.

Amahl:    Yes exactly Anwar, from a story telling point of view,  characters like Jar Jar Binks would’ve had no place in Rogue One.  This story was too serious for the buffoonery of characters created for children.

Anwar:  What did you think about the ending?  Rogue One leaves off with Princess Leia receiving the plans.  I would have preferred to have the ending a little more open ended and left to the imagination such as Jyn and Cassian transmitting the plans and wondering if they were actually received by the Rebellion – something to that effect.  That’s just me as a writer.

Amahl:  For me the cameo by a digital Leia was too much.  It was kind of like eating a dessert that’s too sweet.   Instead of showing the face of the digital double, they could’ve used an actual human body double with the white hood draped over her face.  Or do an over the shoulder shot (an OTS shot), showing the classic Leia double bun hair style.

Anwar:  Agree.  Speaking of Carrie Fisher, I’d like to dedicate this review to her and her mother Debbie Reynolds who both passed away recently.  Carrie Fisher was an icon.  She was most known for her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars and was a fixture in many of our childhoods, but she played in a lot of other notable films as well, and she will be missed.

Okay bro I guess that wraps it up.  It’ll be interesting to see if Lucas Film generates any further backstories for us, or if all of the new productions will simply move us forward from Episode VII.  We should try to reconvene and review Hidden Figures – not a Super Hero or Sci-Fi film, but instead and historical piece involving the contributions of a group of black women to Astronomy which is an important story.  After that it’ll definitely be Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Based on the trailer, it looks like it’s going to be great.

What’s your twitter handle just in case other enthusiasts want to follow and interact with you?

Amahl:  It’s @amahldunbar.

Anwar:  My Twitter handle is @BWArePowerful, and you can also follow me at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page.  If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment.  To receive the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site.  While my main areas of focus are Education STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.  Thank you and we’re signing off.


A review of Marvel’s Dr. Strange

As described in my bio for the Big Words Blog Site, both my brother, Amahl Dunbar, and I are “Fanboys” and have a love of science fiction and superhero feature films such as those produced by DC and Marvel.  In addition to having an abundance of books in our home at an early age, we both developed a love for comic books.  These books were important tools for both of us continuing to learn how to read, speak, and even to think, imagine, and ponder subjects like science.  While I ventured away from this love in high school when basketball became my love, and then later salsa dancing, Amahl never strayed from it.  He even started exploring the worlds of animation and visual effects, and eventually contributed to the production of the film The Space Detective produced by the Swamp Media Group.

His sticking with it actually allowed me to come back to the comic book/science fiction world in my early 30s when he turned me on to DC’s classic graphic novel, Kingdom Come, written by Mark Waid; featuring the brilliant illustrations of Alex Ross.  I loved that book and had never seen anything like it.  Amahl also shared DC’s The Watchmen with me prior to the movie adaptation.  I also have a copy of the Dark Knight Returns which I’ve yet to read because of my busy schedule.

Over the years we’ve developed a ritual of watching these movies, sometimes independently and sometimes together, and then convening afterwards to discuss what we saw and thought of that particular film.  Our debriefing sessions are either in person or on the phone, but we have them nonetheless.  We’ve thus decided to try our hands at conducting our very first movie review for publication.  The movie is Marvel’s Dr. Strange starring Benedict Cumberbatch.  The following is our candid review, thoughts and reflections on Marvel’s latest film.

Anwar: Well Bro, I’ll start this off and we’ll just see where it goes.  As you know, when we were younger, I was more of a DC guy and was heavily into Batman and the Justice League International.  G (our best friend Gabriel Smith), was more of a Marvel guy.  In fact, I remember him always going on and on about Captain America.  You were kind of a jack of all trades with knowledge of both the DC and Marvel universes, and amazingly, you sat in the middle with knowledge of both.  I’m saying this to say that aside from Spiderman, who was heavily featured in numerous TV cartoon series throughout our youth, and even The Electric Company back in the 70s and early 80s (snippets with real life actors), much of what I know about Marvel and its characters today, I’ve learned through their movies.  And I love The Avengers films.  I would say Robert Downey, Jr., as Tony Stark/Iron Man, is my favorite character.  Indeed, their entire cast of actors and characters is stellar.

I’d heard of Dr. Strange and seen images of him, but I didn’t really know what to expect when I walked into the theatre other than the fact that there would probably be an Easter Egg at the end of the movie – a hallmark of the Marvel movies, in addition to cameos by Stan Lee.  We both saw the movie, but can you give an overview of the story?  To any readers, if you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to stop reading here.  This might spoil it for you.

Amahl:  Sure.  Marvel’s latest film offering is Doctor Strange, a blend of Jedi-style sorcery, with world shifting special effects. Benedict Cumberbatch leads an ensemble cast as Dr. Stephen Strange, an elite trauma surgeon who becomes a magic wielding superhero.  The film has the typical hero’s journey similar to The Matrix or Harry Potter.  Cumberbatch is smart not to play Dr. Strange in the same way that Robert Downey, Jr. plays Tony Stark.  The mature cast seemed specifically chosen for their ages and educated appearances.

Dr. Strange’s photographic memory and speed reading ability allow him to move through his sorcerer training at an accelerated rate.  If you’ve ever met someone who can speed read or has a photographic memory, you realize how special they are because they can operate at almost a computer-like level.  These two attributes allow Dr. Strange to quickly become a powerful sorcerer.

The role of the mystic teacher is brilliantly played by Tilda Swinton, as The Ancient One.  She steals every scene she’s in with clever philosophy, comedy, and good hearted unpredictability – the unpredictability that’s required to keep adult students, like Strange, interested in learning.  Swinton’s Ancient One is as good a science fiction mentor as Morpheus, Yoda, or Obi Wan Kenobi in the Matrix and Star Wars franchises.  She takes her mentorship one step further than other mentors by telling Strange and the audience exactly what he needs to do to be great versus good.

Anwar:  Interesting.  What stood out to you about the film?  For me much of the imagery and special effects reminded me of Inception, starring Leo DiCaprio – with the moving and shifting scenery and landscapes.  The costumes and the whole sorcery piece reminded me of the movie The Last Airbender.  I also recognized some of the characters from Spiderman: The Animated Series from the late 1990s such as Mordo, portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Dormammu, voiced by Jonathan Adams, the ultimate antagonist of the film.  I really liked the travel through the dimensions, and seeing Dormammu initially was definitely pretty scary with the two ominous eyes in space-time looking on.

Amahl:  I think you hit several of the main points.  What stood out to me is how these sorcerers were presented, and knowing that Dr. Strange would eventually join the Avengers or help them.  Again, these sorcerers were portrayed kind of like the Jedi.  Dr. Strange was likened to Obi-Wan Kenobi without a light saber.  Their manner of dress had an Asian nod to it.  They were not just sorcerers, but also martial artists as well.  Typically when you see Dr. Strange, he’s always wearing his red cloak.  Seeing him without the cloak, underneath it looks like a Jedi-like costume.  So there was a lot of thought given to what they were going to wear and how they were going to be perceived – not as Harry Potter-type sorcerers or like witches and wizards from other franchises, but a very specific kind of a warrior-sorcerer look.

Anwar:  I had to get used to seeing Benedict Cumberbatch as a hero because I’m used to seeing him play a villain, such as when he played Kahn in Star Trek: Into Darkness, or playing some kind of high-ranking government operative/spy/politician.  It was similar to when I first saw Robert Downey, Jr. portray Tony Stark/Iron Man.  It was like, ‘Wow.  Robert Downey, Jr. is a hero.’  I was used to seeing him play so many other things – especially in the 1980s in comedic teen movies like Weird Science, and then later as a villain in US Marshals.

Amahl:  Absolutely.

Anwar:  I also had to adjust to watching Cumberbatch exhibit humor.  In every Marvel movie there’s usually huge element of humor in their scripts, though I wasn’t used to seeing Dr. Strange being absent minded at times, and trying to be funny and witty.  I won’t give it away, but his solution to stopping Dormammu was definitely creative, and funny.

Not long ago, we also talked about the fact that in the comic books, Dr. Strange has more of a Latino or Asian look.  Is that correct?

Amahl:  Some friends of mine who know more about the Marvel Universe than I do, told me months ago that the character is supposed to be Latino, which gives a whole new perspective to viewing the film – knowing that the character in the comic book is Latino versus the character in the movie being European or British.  That’s not to say that the movie wasn’t good – it would’ve just given the movie a completely different spin – seeing that character played by Michael Peña who was actually in Antman or Philip De Blanc – any good looking Latino actor – it would’ve given a completely different vibe to the movie.

Anwar:  As I was watching the film, I noticed that The Ancient One told Dr. Strange that The Avengers were the guardians of the non-mystical world and they themselves were the guardians of the mystical world, and I was in fact wondering if this particular story would fold into the upcoming Infinity War.  As per usual Marvel gave a nice Easter Egg during the credits and it turns out that it is going to be a part of the larger story that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is constructing – they’re all going to come together at some point and they’re all going to fight Thanos, I would imagine.

Amahl:  There’s also a shot of the Avengers’ Mansion at the beginning of the movie.  I think the movie opens with Dr. Strange in surgery where he practices medicine.  In the following scene when they show him getting ready to go to the party, there’s a push-in shot in the city and you see the Avengers’ Mansion in the mid-ground.  It’s not in the foreground, nor in the background.  It’s in the mid-ground and it’s large enough for you to see it.  And that push- in shot goes into Strange’s apartment and it shows that he actually lives close to the Avengers’ Mansion.

Anwar:  As per usual with these little details, I completely missed that.  Okay Bro, I think that wraps up this review.  You have a lot of experience working with visual effects, and you’re currently working on your own Superhero trailer right?  How long have you been doing that?

Amahl:  Well, I have been working on a Justice League trailer probably for about two years in my spare time.  Most of it has been during mornings and early afternoons before I go to work while I’m either eating breakfast or lunch.  During those times I figure that the 10-15 minutes that I’m actually eating is time that I can do this; it’s the best time for me to work on it.   It involves ripping footage from DVDs, organizing the footage, and editing it down to shots.  I’ve had to figure out which shots from these movies to use – the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, the Michael Keaton Batman movies, some of the latest Christian Bale Dark Knight movies, and finally Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman television series.

I’ve taken shots from each of these movies and shows, and I’m going to try to tell a narrative through a trailer.  The trailer could also be viewed as a “Visual Treatment”.  A “Treatment” in Hollywood is basically a description by paragraph of what a movie or TV show would actually be.  You can view this trailer as a treatment – of what my ideas would be for a Justice League movie.  I’ve included some of my own visual effects, and there is also some 3-D animation so that every shot that you see isn’t directly pulled from a movie.  Some of the shots have actually been edited or enhanced to further tell the narrative that I’m going for.

Anwar:  When it’s completed it will be on your YouTube channel?

Amahl:  Absolutely.

Anwar:  And will people be able to access that through you Twitter page?

Amahl:  Yes, the links will be available in places where people can easily see them.  I’m actually looking forward to connecting with some Comic Book stores here in the Buffalo area and saying, ‘I’m a local artist and I think you would find this very interesting.  Here is the link.  If you like it, share it with your customer base.’

Anwar:  Making trailers is actually a pretty big deal on YouTube.  There are people making trailers and videos about their favorite franchises just for the hell of it, and sometimes leading up to the release of the next movie.  A lot of fan trailers were made leading up to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, for example, and that’s very impressive.

Amahl:  Absolutely.  If fans have their own episodes or even make their own movies, this is a new way for them to show their appreciation for the franchises.  It’s not just, ‘I’ll buy a movie or I’ll buy a t-shirt or I’ll buy a DVD collection of the show,’ but fans can show their appreciation of the franchise by making their own short videos.

Anwar:  Well Bro, I guess that wraps it up.  Hopefully, there are some readers who enjoyed this.  Star Wars: Rogue One is actually coming out in a couple of weeks.  We’ll have to reconvene and talk about that one after we see it as well.  What’s your twitter handle just in case other enthusiasts want to follow and interact with you?

Amahl:  It’s @amahldunbar.

Anwar:  I also have a personal twitter handle, but I’m trying to grow a following for Big Words so I’m going to offer up @BWArePowerful.  If you’ve read this review and like it, please do leave comments and I’ll respond.  It could be something as simple as saying that you enjoyed our discussion.  Thank you and we’re signing off.

If you enjoyed this review, please leave comments.  We plan to do more.  The significance of this review actually didn’t occur to me until afterwards.  In addition to sharing our love for Superhero and Science Fiction media, this type of review is powerful because it was conducted by two African American men, which may or may not be unusual depending on your set of experiences.  If you go on Twitter, there are actually quite a few African Americans enjoying and partaking in this type of activity.  This year I accidentally discovered on Twitter that there is actually a Black Comic Book Festival at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Brooklyn, NY every year.  Furthermore, this piece communicates to younger African American kids that it is okay to read, write, think, to imagine and to ponder stories, fictional characters, and science and technology.